Four federal civil rights lawsuits alleging malicious harassment and seeking a total of $6 million in damages were filed Wednesday against Carbon County Sheriff Barry Bryner.
The lawsuits come less than a month after a state review concluded that while the sheriff exhibited a marked inability to administer his office and had made life "miserable" for some employees, he should remain on the job.The plaintiffs, two sheriff's office employees and two former employees, allege that Bryner violated their constitutional rights by, among other things, imposing intolerable work schedules and denying advancement to one employee, terminating another and demoting a third.
Attempts to contact Bryner and members of the County Commission, which also is named in the lawsuits, were unsuccessful Wednesday. County Attorney Nick Sampinos said he was aware of the complaints but had not seen them and would have no comment.
In his $1.3 million complaint, Chuck Semken, who unsuccessfully opposed Bryner in the 1986 election, contended he was demoted from a detective sergeant to a uniformed investigator after Bryner took office, assigned to work weekends and forced to resign two years short of his intended retirement after 30 years, thereby suffering loss of retirement and Social Security benefits as well as "severe physical and emotional distress."
Dea R. Thayn, who is asking for $1.7 million, and Martin Estrada, who seeks $1.6 million, claim that the inclusion of their names on a paid political advertisement supporting Semken's candidacy prompted Bryner to retaliate with adverse work schedules, and, in Estrada's case, to deny a promotion.
Ed Ellis, who seeks $1.4 million, contends he was terminated without cause from his dispatcher job after he testified to the commission that Bryner had failed to staff the dispatcher's office on one occasion, thus forcing the Price Police Department to assume the responsibility for the shift.